In the coming days, the Israeli government will issue an official order establishing a committee to examine amnesty requests by prisoners serving life sentences imposed by military courts in Judea and Samaria, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.
In response, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted: “As long as I am defense minister, no terrorist’s sentence will be shortened by even one hour.” Of course, Liberman in the past gained notoriety for his promise to assassinate Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh within 48 hours of Liberman’s taking office, two years and three months ago – which should suggest that the DM, like many Hasidic masters, lives “above time.”
The reality of the planned move was revealed during a hearing at the High Court of Justice of a request by the terrorist who murdered the late Ziva Goldovsky in November 1988, to be released from prison after 30 years behind bars. The murderer, convicted by a court of the IDF Civil Administration, claimed that he was being discriminated against compared with terrorists who had been tried in Israel’s civil justice system. Each time this murderer appealed to the military authorities in Judea and Samaria for a release after serving 30 years, his request was denied.
The murderer petitioned the High Court of Justice on the grounds that the existing policy discriminates between life term prisoners who were tried in Judea and Samaria and comparable prisoners tried in Israel. The High Court justices decided to reject his petition so as not to interfere with the military’s decisions, but in the course of the legal proceedings, a change in policy was revealed by the IDF.
According to the court’s ruling, “the Petitioner notes in his petition that the GOC Central Command has almost completely avoided cutting the sentences of life term prisoners who had been tried in military courts and who serve their sentences in Israeli prisons, referring to both criminal and security prisoners.”
The ruling continued: “It was argued that the GOC Central Command’s failure to reduce the terms of these prisoners creates an unacceptable discrimination between those prisoners and other prisoners serving life sentences in Israeli jails.”
Still citing the petitioner, the High Court integrated his appeal into the ruling, saying, “Prison conditions for prisoners from the Judea and Samaria region, who serve sentences in Israeli jails, should be equal to the terms of imprisonment of Israeli residents, while with regard to the curbing of sentences of prisoners who were tried in the Judea and Samaria region, this is not the case, the petitioner claimed.”
“This state of affairs does not meet the rules of administrative correctness, is contrary to human dignity and leads to improper discrimination,” the ruling continued, obviously using the language of the petition to actually express the court’s real opinion.
The surprise was hidden in the response of the GOC Central Command and the Legal Advisor for the Judea and Samaria region to the petition, which states that “staff work was conducted to examine the issue. Following this staff work, it was decided to establish a committee to recommend curbing life sentences in the region. Accordingly, the Legal Advisor for the Judea and Samaria Area has formulated a draft amendment to the security legislation on the matter, which was forwarded for the consideration of the relevant parties.”
According to a statement issued by the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, the order to establish the committee has not yet been published. Once the order is issued officially, the terrorists would be able to submit applications for life sentence curbs to a committee chaired by a military judge, which would submit its recommendations regarding cutting the sentences to GOC Central Command.
The Im Tirtzu Lavi NGOs, which deal, among other things, in providing legal aid to bereaved Israeli families, attacked the reported move, saying: “The establishment of the Appropriations Committee for Terrorists would inevitably lead to the release of terrorist murderers on a massive scale each year and to a severe blow to Israeli deterrence.”